THE FAROE ISLANDS Yours to Discover
Listen to the silence
Step back in time
Breathe the pure North-Atlantic air
See the light
Discover the Faroe Islands Discover a world with a different pace of life, a storybook world where children still play laughing in the streets, where the sheep roam free all year round, even in the capital city. This is a land where past and present meet, a land where you can experience life as it used to be, without sacrificing your modern comforts. Welcome to the Faroe Islands: eighteen green jewels rising sheer from the cobalt waters of the North Atlantic, where some 50,000 people live in harmony with each other and with nature. The Faroe Islanders know how to make visitors feel welcome, greeting them with a warmth and hospitality seldom encountered elsewhere. It may be easy to overlook the Faroe Islands on the map â€“ their combined area is less than that of London â€“ but once visited they are never forgotten.
Easy Travelling In the Faroe Islands, rivers and streams do not wind lazily across the landscape but bound down hillsides and cliffs in white-foaming haste, because there is next to no lowland on the islands. Towns and villages stand by the sea, often with high mountains in between. But if you imagine that it is hard to travel around this rugged country with its eighteen islands and countless fjords and bays, youâ€™re in for a pleasant surprise. The Faroe Islands infrastructure is as modern and functional as the colourful wooden houses are traditional and romantic. Every inch of the road network is paved and tunnels connect once-remote fjords. Some islands are linked by bridges and two of them are connected by a tunnel that goes under the Atlantic, while the ferry company comes to the rescue over longer distances, operating passenger and car ferries that sail many times a day between the islands. Those who do not wish to be rocked on the open sea, or simply want to get around faster, can take to the scheduled helicopter hops to a wide range of destinations on the islands.
See Thousands of Birds This is paradise. Not just for birds but for those who wish to watch them in their natural habitat. The ocean around the islands is an inexhaustible larder for seabirds, which swarm around the rock walls and colonise large areas of some islands. At the peak of the season the Faroe Islands are home to around 3.5 million birds. A large proportion of these are puffins and storm petrels; the latter congregating in greater numbers on the east coast of N贸lsoy island than anywhere else in the world. On average around 40 species of bird breed in the Faroes Islands on a regular basis, while some 40 more species nest there occasionally, and ornithologists have recorded a total of around 300 species in the islands.
Be Prepared Strap on your hiking boots or step aboard a boat. Whichever you choose, prepare to come into close contact with nature. Even confirmed landlubbers are bound to be converted by the experience of a Faroe Islands cruise. As if the exhilarating noise and drama of the bird cliffs were not enough, a few metres beyond you will find yourself entering one of the astounding grottoes, carved out by the sea, with vaults to rival the largest cathedrals in the world. No one can remain unmoved. Or hike into the mountains and realise your dream of becoming a shepherd for the day. There are scores of old paths and trackways, which once linked settlements before the advent of the motor car, but now have no other role than to lead walkers to spectacular views and some of the cleanest air youâ€™ll ever breathe. Enjoy!
Shaped by the Sea If any one thing has formed the Faroe Islands character it is proximity to the sea. This is hardly surprising given that wherever you stand on the islands you are never more than five kilometres from the shore. The islanders have made their living by braving the Atlantic since time immemorial, and today seafood products still account for 97% of export income. The Faroe Islanders are descended from Vikings who set sail from Scandinavia more than eleven centuries ago in search of new lands which were known to lie to the west. Irish monks are believed to have lived in the islands before this time, but understandably fled when the North Sea brigands turned up in their longships. In 1035 the Faroe Islands were annexed by the Kingdom of Norway, which subsequently ended up under Danish rule in 1380. And there the islands have remained ever since, although Sweden acquired Norway in 1814. The Faroe Islands were granted home rule in 1948, but are still today part of the Danish realm.
A Key to the Past How did a nation that for centuries consisted of only four to five thousand souls manage to preserve its own language and distinct national character? The reasons are the same as those which make the Faroe Islands such an enchanting destination today: the islands are off the beaten track, a world apart, where life carries on largely unchanged and undisturbed by events in the outside world. Yet, it is still an achievement to hold on to your own tongue, despite centuries of Danish and foreign rule, and the Faroe Islands probably have the ring dance to thank for this: in the Middle Ages similar dances were familiar all over Europe but fell out of favour over time, surviving only here in the Islands. The locals like to perform the ring dance with a crowd of dancers packed into a tight space, which soon grows good and warm. The long human chain winds through the rooms, accompanied only by the chanting of the lead singer and the stamping of feet, and the dance rises and falls to the rhythm of the ballad being told; fast and lively when appropriate, slow and mournful when the story turns sad. It is these ballads, sung during the dance, that are the key to the preservation of the language. Passed down orally from generation to generation, around 70,000 verses have survived. The Faroe Islands are inordinately fond of dancing, and never more so than around their national day, which is celebrated on 29 July. The day is known as Ólavsøka, after St. Olav, King of Norway, who died in the year 1030. Although this is the true
national day, the official celebrations begin on the eve of the 28th, with a parade through Tórshavn, led by riders bearing the Faroe Islands flag. Traditionally, the Ólavsøka festivities centre on the capital, and inhabitants of other parts of the islands flock there to take part. Everybody dresses up for the occasion and many men, women and children proudly sport national costume. The high point of 28 July is a rowing competition in traditional eight-oared Faroese gigs, reminiscent of small Viking ships, and after a tough contest in Tórshavn harbour the summer’s rowing champions are crowned. Both sexes compete and the atmosphere during the races is as electric as at any football match in warmer climes. But the Islanders attend not only to take part in an organised programme but also – perhaps equally – to see and be seen. In the evening there are dances all over town and if there is one time the Faroese really let their hair down, it is Ólavsøka. On St. Olav’s Day itself, there is a procession from the Parliament “Løgtingið” to the Cathedral, where a service is held and choirs sing, and then the partying continues until dawn, though Ólavsøka formally ends at midnight. In fact the Ólavsøka fun is prolonged at both ends, as those in a party mood tend to warm up for several evenings before the official programme begins and then take one evening more to wind down afterwards. This is a magical time in the Faroe Islands, whether you are there as a guest or local.
So Far, So Close Although the Faroe Islands may seem remote, they are in fact one or two hours away from Europe by air and offer everything a modern traveller needs. You can find a variety of accommodation, from high-class hotels to basic bed and breakfasts. People are friendly and speak Scandinavian and English. The Faroese capital, Tórshavn, is small and compact but bursting with life. There are several cafés which transform into bars at night, often with live music; nightclubs open at weekends, and when it comes to wining and dining there is a range from fast food, pizza and oriental, to à la carte restaurants.
Things You Need to Know The Faroe Islands: 18 islands, 17 of them inhabited.
Trade and industry: Export of seafood products 97%.
You can find an accommodation list at www.visit-faroeislands.com
Location: In the middle of the North Atlantic at 62°N northwest of Scotland and halfway between Iceland and Norway.
Religion: Christian, 80% of the population belongs to the Faroese state church and Evangelical-Lutheran and 10% to the Christian Brethren.
What to do: The scenery in the Faroes Islands is spectacular. How you choose to experience it is up to you. You can strap on your hiking boots and follow one of the old cairn-marked trails, make yourself comfortable on a bus, or take an unforgettable boat tour to the bird-cliffs. You can send the family pony-trekking while you yourself don a pair of waders and try out your new fishing rod. Or, if art and culture are more up your street, there are the museums and Faroese cultural evenings. During the summer there are also a variety of festivals: regional festivals with dancing, funfairs and sporting events, especially the traditional Faroese rowing competitions, and music festivals offering concerts in churches, theatres or in the open air.
Area: 1,399 km2 Coastline: The total length of the islands coastline is 1,100 km, slightly longer than the distance between Tórshavn and Oslo. Highest point: Slættaratindur peak (882 m). Average elevation: 300 m above sea level. Climate: Average temperature in summer 11°C, in winter 3°C.
How to get there: Although the Faroe Islands are situated in the middle of the Atlantic they are easily accessible by air or sea. Atlantic Airways offers direct flights to the UK, some Scandinavian cities and Iceland; check out www.atlantic.fo If you prefer to travel by sea, Smyril Line has weekly departures from Denmark, Norway, Scotland and Iceland; check out www.smyril-line.com
Capital: Tórshavn is the smallest capital city in the world, with 19,000 people living in the capital area.
How to get around: Getting around the Faroes Islands is easy. The roads are good and the public transport system is well developed. Bus services connect cities and villages, while ferries and helicopters serve more remote areas. Strandfaraskip Landsins operates the bus and ferry lines; for timetables check www.ssl.fo Atlantic Airways operates the helicopter service; for timetables see www.atlantic.fo
Status: A self-governing region within the Danish kingdom. The Faroe Islands have their own parliament, “Løgtingið”, and their own flag, “Merkið” (a red and blue cross on a white background).
Where to stay: You can stay at hotels, guesthouses, youth hostels or rent a summerhouse. If you prefer camping, most islands have a campsite where you can park your caravan or pitch your tent.
Population: Approx 50,000 Language: Faroese, a language rooted in Old Norse.
For more information, contacts and dates, see www.visit-faroeislands.com What to wear: The weather is quite unpredictable and you can experience all four seasons in one day, so we recommend that you bring sensible clothing: a waterproof and windproof jacket, sweater, warm hat and waterproof boots.You will also need sunglasses and sunscreen to protect you from the bright sunlight. And binoculars will come in useful for enjoying the splendid vistas and rich bird life.
Tourist Board and Trade Council Bryggjubakki 12, P.O. Box 259, FO-110 Tórshavn Faroe Islands Tel. +298 306 900 Fax. +298 306 901 www.visit-faroeislands.com www.samvit.fo
S T E P H A N S S O N S H Ú S , T E X T, J Ó N K A L D A L , P H O T O , P Á L L S T E F Á N S S O N
Wish you were here